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Monday, March 23, 2009

They Are All My Children



THEY ARE ALL MY CHILDREN

Even the children who are not my children are my children. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and although I personally feel that that sentiment is both trite and misused, I still feel that every child that I have ever met or interacted with is, in some small way, my child.

My mom worked many years for the Department of Social Services. When I was an unruly teenager (somewhere between the ages of twelve and twenty), she would sometimes bring me along with her on house visits, and I got to see just how lucky I was, and how easy I had it. This burned an indelible imprint on my psyche, and fired within me the absolute certainly that every child alive just wants to be loved.

So the little boy in Spider-Man pajamas with the long purple stripes where the lamp cord had scored his neck, who hugged my knees when I gave him a stick of gum, he is my child.

The black kid with the hare-lip who could not say fire TRUCK, but was thrilled to get one at a Christmas party from a nineteen year old Santa, he is my child.

And the five year old girl who lived on the third floor back in the old neighborhood, snot running down her nose and scabs on her knees, who showed everyone her naked bum in exchange for nickels, she is my child.

The tow-headed kid with a mouth like a forty-year-old drunken sailor, who threw things at dogs and spit on adults, is my child. When my mom brought him home one night until he could be placed in a foster home, he could not believe that people actually sat down to a meal together, played games, or laughed aloud. I will never forget his simple thank you when I brought him a blanket and a pillow. He looked like I just given him the heart out of my chest.

Another of my children is the red-headed kid with the ears that stuck out like open doors on a taxicab, who, after failing the obstacle course at camp nine times, succeeded with just a little encouragement, and hugged me until I thought I would break.

The little boy whose father had been sexually abusing him so long that he was afraid of me just because I had a beard like his dad, he is my child.

The obnoxious stoner kid at the local corner store that looks like he regards me as an old establishment fart, he is my child too.

The toddler who lived next door to me, loud and unruly, who wanted to come inside my apartment and hang out when her mom was not home and would not take no for an answer, she is my child.

The whole gaggle of kids at a birthday party attended by my youngest daughter who – for no apparent reason, decided to call me Santa Claus and proceeded to tell me what each and every one of them wanted for Christmas, in August – they are all my kids.

The little ones who I taught to pour clay slip into plaster of Paris molds to form piggy banks and unicorns, learning to love the craft of ceramics, giggling and fiercely proud of their creations, Each and every one of them are my children, and I could not be prouder of them.

The twins from France, who could not speak a word of English, but laughed at my Sponge Bob Squarepants voice until they nearly wet themselves, they are my children.

Every single girl from my daughters Girl Scout Troop, who posed for pictures, held my hand as we crossed the street, got teased by me and teased me in return, and in general made me the unofficial dad on our trip to New York, they are all my daughters.

The two middle school girls who live across the street, Ashley and Caitlyn, who helped me to shovel out my driveway this morning, they are my children as well.

I could go on like this all day; hundreds, maybe thousands of kids that have caught my eye, touched my heart, or made my day, each and every one of them sharing this world with me and just by being here, giving me the opportunity to enrich both of our lives, just a little bit, by the interaction.

They are all my children.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Secret Communication


Illustration by R. Crumb


Need.

We are all of us defined by need. The need for relief, for sustenance, for value, for love, needs so bountiful and plentiful that one could never catalog them all. There are as many needs as there are individuals to have need of them.

I need a job. I need to provide for my family. I need to feel worthwhile. I need for my time to have intrinsic value. I need for my words to carry weight with those who read them. I need to be needed, need to be loved. I need to create new things that did not exist before I turned my mind to them. I need to survive.

Artists, writers and poets have used the word need in regard to love since we began writing about it at all. When we are love, the object of our affection pulls us toward them like a planet, and we NEED to be with them, touch them, taste them, experience them.



A Secret Communication

Conquered by sorrow, looking for the secret star
among the cast-offs from the obscurity of ephemera,
my eyes and heart were drawn upward
by a smile, sailed upon the air, its fragrance
sustaining as steak and potatoes

How like a secret communication with angels
are stolen glances among daily chores,
the spirit in the air ready to catch spark

And there you are, my love, my beloved,
understanding my need, the sound of my weeping
reaching you on distant shores, giving
you the shadow of my sorrow where
you have sweetened my face with kisses.

You are my beloved.
Love’s delegate, as poets call it.
You are the cup of Beauty, who offers
her separation impelled by worldly intent,
leading my soul into the spiritual world
where it will be painted with glory.

I will sing the praise of the soul’s deed,
the charm of true love’s shelter from the world
watering paradise with our own tears, and toil,
the promise that came alive when we met
the fruit and succulence that I cannot live without.

In recalling the first kiss, the moment, the spark,
that first breathe of secret communion
only we can know, the breath of God
that turned clay into man.
Secrets that no tongue may reveal alone.

The paths we have walked, together,
my course or your course, but always ours,
hands joined, heads leaning in to conspiracy,
kept us hiding ourselves within ourselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love's Second Chance







I'm all about second chances these days.

Getting laid off, in this economy, my mind seems to gravitate back to the childish concept of 'do-over', but I cannot escape the feeling that things would not be so very different, even if I could go back.

One place where I got a second chance, and had great success, was romantically.

My first marriage was SUCH a mistake, but on the upside, it prepared me to be the man I am today, for which my second wife will be eternally grateful.

But the transition, the road from there to her, was pretty bleak indeed. Which brings me to today's piece.

LOVE'S SECOND CHANCE

My last meal was vitriol and nightmare
washed down with rum,
seasoned with regret.
I was weak enough to start a fight
and strong enough
not to finish it.

Walking towards something
I could neither see nor understand,
willing each step over every crack
arguing with my destination,
I drank deeply
of the perfumed poison of denial.

I passed naked trees, dressed in suicide,
over jagged stones of murder,
renegade soul grenades
exploding my misconceptions
into little scattered bits.

Until chance happened to grace me
with a balm to my soul,
one who would neither disgrace me,
nor rend my spirit to tatters.
A new spirit walked through my life,
one awash in laughter, whimsy and music,
saw the ragged man I was,
and the man I could become, with her help.

My life I would give
to lay down in the valley of her neck,
to be lulled by the angelic thrum
her heart calls to mine,
drifting into a soft sheet coma
gifting her with my ghost.







I would love to know what you thought about this post. Please consider leaving a comment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Failed Writer




Failure. The stink of it seems to fill my senses lately.

Being let go from a job I loved was both a slap in the face and a wake-up call. There are times lately when I feel like a failure, but of course, my lovely wife does not let that go on for more than a second or two before she love-slaps me upside the figurative head and gets me back on track.

Nonetheless, I have been thinking a lot lately about failure, about letting dreams slip away unreached for. Plenty of people have dreams of what they wanted to be when they grew up, and then they find themselves old and no closer to those dreams than they were when they first conceived them.

Which, of course, led me back to the following poem.

This was written about a year and a half ago, inspired by a TV show I saw about a man who killed his son in fit of rage because the boy had attained a goal the father once thought he wanted, but never went after. That kind of bitterness is not what I want for myself, and what came out was the following:




THE FAILED WRITER

These days the old Ford sits on blocks,
the manuscript it inspired is cracked and peeled,
somewhere in the attic,
the events of his life
written in disappearing ink,
no permanent trace
of his ever having
circled the Sun.

From the day he first drew breath,
desire was a map with no markers.
He had never really been sure
where he was
or where he was headed,
his life was patchwork and primer
with too much time lost
chasing ‘easy’.

Called himself a writer
because calling himself a bum
would not get him laid.

Time got pissed away,
traded in for smoke rings
in a windstorm,
and age now holds his joints in a wintry fist
while he waits for Gabriel
to ring him up.

He stares at the late autumn sky
smoking, drinking black coffee,
and wonders where that damn manuscript went.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Game Without a Name



Ah, nothing like a dismal, snowy Monday to make a guy think about ... sex.

Seriously, on days like this my mind tends to wander down carnal paths, the desire to stay inside and hole up away from a cold and blustery world easily mastering my desire to get up, get out, and get things done.

On days like this all I want to do is roll over, clasp my warm and willing wife even closer to myself and get lost in the myriad ways we love to love each other.

But alas, such is not to be, the mundane world intrudes upon our need for sexual solace, and we are forced to be responsible adults, despite out best and most giggle-filled intentions.

Instead allow me to share with you all a playful look at the sexual games that go between consenting and creative adults.



A GAME WITHOUT A NAME

Let us play a nameless game,
a shameless game.
Shall we say the prize is the ecstasy
of flesh, and sin, and joy,
a carnal carnival.
Suppose you move and do
as I move and do,
our actions holding us as close as may be
while leaving us unchained.

I want to make you shiver -
a leaf in an autumnal moment -
poised between life and death. 
I will have your taste in my mouth,
your heft in my hands,
your texture along my saliva-slick fingers.

Your eyes stroke the floor,
not from modesty, but
as an act of kindness,
for if your eyes touch mine
I will be ensnared.

Let us play a nameless game,
a blameless game.
Strip free of your inhibitions
leaving them piled carelessly
on the floor
next to the clothes you are not wearing.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Girl in the Window


The Girl in the Window is based on a horrible true story that happened in Plant City Florida. HERE is the news story from the St. Petersburg Times. Photo by Melissa Little.

Nine year old Dani, living a squalid life of mental and emotional impoverishment, had no hope, no champions, and no future, until she was rescued by some caring people.

Now, I am not usually one easily snagged by the pathos reporting of the Sunday supplement style, but this story literally gripped me by the soul and shook me like a dog with a stuffed teddy.

I found myself a teenager once more, traveling on the road with my mother, a Children's Services caseworker, seeing firsthand just what an uncaring parent can visit upon a child, and how much of an effect it can have on them.

For further explanation of my personal views on this, see the essay 'They are All My Children'.

But this story stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about it for a couple of days. I went back through my browser history and read it again, then penned the following poem. I have since sent it to the original reporter, Lane DeGregory, who has told me that she forwarded to Dani in her new situation, and the family she now lives with loved it so much they had it written in calligraphy and framed.

Of all the pieces I have written for myself, this is the first piece that I wrote for someone else.

THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW

A child’s mind,
imprisoned from the start
By a callow mother,
bereft of good heart,
Living in filth, neglect
loneliness and pain
Until good people
brought her into light again

Hollow eyes, sunken deep
into blank face
Peer through grimy glass
at this unknown human race.
A dirty blanket for a shade,
a closet for a bed,
No comforting arms,
no pillow for her head.

The eyes have no focus;
they do not tear or blink
They are not the eyes of someone
who is trying hard to think
They only see contrasts,
the balance of darks and light
The person inside is gone,
Given up without a fight.

When found by those
whose job is caring,
Those eyes see nothing
no soul is baring
Hardened pros
now scarred for life
To see this child
embodying strife.

A child unloved,
untouched, unwanted
Dark eyes empty
of life, yet haunted
By a life lived in squalor
neglect and isolation
The spark inside snuffed
by darkling desperation.

New parents stepped up
with hearts and love to spare
Giving her what she needs
a chance to grow and care
About herself if only
she can find
A way to feed the hunger
of her starving child’s mind.

The bleak life lived
as a child unknown by any other
Has changed thanks to
a giving man, a mother, a brother
This little girl,
shortchanged by birth
Now has the chance
to grow into her worth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pick Me a Winner



Being a dad is easily the best job in the whole world.

I love my daughters with everything that I have got, and have no wish to father sons, no innate desire to hand my name down to the ages, and, as the following poem shows, I will get me some sons one day.

I just hope they are good guys.



PICK ME A WINNER
I feel sorry for you, dad,” said she.
The words fell on his heart like lead.
He was surprised at how much he disliked
Hearing the words that she had said.

“Why would you feel sorry for me?”
His surprise evident in his voice
“Because you don’t have any sons,
You’ve got daughters, you had no choice.”

He looked at her, this gorgeous girl,
And he just leaned over and kissed her.
“I could not have asked for better kids
Than I got with you and your sister.”

He smiled at her, the ways dads do
This child he could not help but adore
“You both are everything I’ve ever dreamt
You are all this and much, much more.”

“I know that, dad, you always say that.”
And she hugged him extra tight.
Then she looked at him with big brown eyes
And said, “But you still wanted sons, right?”

“Not any more,” he said to his girl
“I know I will have them some day.
When you and your sister get married
I’ll get me two sons that way.”

“So my sons are sort of in your hands,”
He smiled again, and held her tight.
“So do me a favor and make a wise choice
And pick me a winner, all right?”